Weak pawns

"Doubled, isolated and blockaded pawns are weak: avoid them!"

  -- Fine, Basic Chess Endings

 


Introduction

"That's what this match is all about - Pawns, isolated or hanging. They might just as well play without pieces." -- Eddie GUFELD, considering yet another IQP position in the 1974 Karpov-Korchnoi match (Game 16, position after White's 24th move)
The English GM David Norwood once said that he made an offer to analyse and comment on some club players' games. They expected him to offer some brilliant analysis, showing them where they had missed golden opportunities, but his advice was more simple: "remember Pawns can't move backwards". Now, that is one of the first things any chess player learns, so they were very disappointed - why was he tellling them what they already knew? Well, they may have known, but they were playing as if they didn't know. They were advancing pawns too far, too fast, too often. They were moving pawns forward which got surrounded and caught, they moved pawns forward which created holes near their king, they moved pawns forward which became the focus of a sacrifice. And once they had moved them forward, they couldn't move them back. So be careful with your Pawns!

  The two principal problems with poor Pawn formations are:

  (1) opportunities provided to the opponents pieces (e.g. occupation of 'holes')

  (2) weaknesses of the Pawns themselves.

  Let us start with a notable example:

Weak pawns: the ultimate collection: Deep Blue - Kasparov, 1996

 

-+t+-+j+
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-Xs+-D-+
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P-+-Q-+p
-P-+-Pp+
+-R-+-K-

Just horrible: every one of the six Black Pawns is isolated, or isolated and doubled! The b-Pawns are also blockaded. Kasparov staked everything on a King's-side hack but after 25. b3! Deep Blue just grabbed the material and steered clear of the tactics.

  There is a lot of meat in this game, which I append if you want to go over it, but it should tell you one thing if nothing else: weak Pawns can lose you the game.

  Could Kasparov have defended everything instead of trying to hack? Well, no. It's a bit like Franklin's "For the want of a nail...": for the want of a friendly neighbour, a d-Pawn is weak; to look after the d-Pawn, the Knight is assigned guard duty; for the want of the Knight, the initiative is lost; for the want of active play, ground is lost on both sides of the board; for the want of pieces free from defence, more weakness are conceded... Once you have more than one weakness, the problem snowballs, and your Pawns fall like ripe fruit into the arms of your opponent.

  Playing against Pawn weaknesses needs some persistence but also some flexibility: this transformation of advantages is seen in several games below.

Spielmann,R - Nimzowitsch Aaron (San ) (9) [B29] 1911

 

t+l+-Tj+
X-D-+xXx
-X-Lx+-+
+-+-N-+-
-+pP-+-+
+-+q+-B-
p+-+-PpP
R-+-R-K-

Black develops pressure against the hanging Pawns.

16... Ba6 17. Rac1 Rac8 18. Qb3 f6

 

-+t+-Tj+
X-D-+-Xx
lX-LxX-+
+-+-N-+-
-+pP-+-+
+q+-+-B-
p+-+-PpP
+-R-R-K-

Tension is now high: White initiates a tactical sequence to avoid losing the c-Pawn, which Black is happy to see to a conclusion.

19. Qa4 fxe5 20. dxe5 Ba3 21. Qxa3 Bxc4 22. Re4 Qd7 23. h3

 

-+t+-Tj+
X-+d+-Xx
-X-+x+-+
+-+-P-+-
-+l+r+-+
Q-+-+-Bp
p+-+-Pp+
+-R-+-K-

23... Bd5

  The hanging Pawns have vanished. Has White equalised? By no means. Black has a superior Bishop, a Queen's-side Pawn majority, and one of those odd minority Pawn formations on the King's-side which make it difficult for White to make use of his majority. There is still a lot of play in the position, and Black won.

...0-1 (42)

  As well as transformation of positional advantages, you can see changes in the Pawn structure - which may be sought by both sides. One well-known sequence may transform an isolated Pawn structure to one with hanging Pawns:

Rubinstein-Nimzovich

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.Bf4 cxd4 7.Nxd4 Bb4 (isolated pawn)

8.e3 Nf6 9.Nxc6 bxc6 (pawn island)

10.Bd3 O-O 11.O-O Bd6 12.Bg3 Bxg3 13.hxg3 c5 (hanging pawns)

 

t+lD-Tj+
X-+-+xXx
-+-+-S-+
+-Xx+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-NbP-P-
pP-+-Pp+
R-+q+rK-

The game continued:

14.Rc1 Be6 15.Qa4 Qb6 16.Qa3 c4 17.Be2 a5 18.Rfd1 Qb4 19.Rd4 Rfd8 20.Rcd1 Rd7 21.Bf3 Rad8 22.Nb1 {?!} 22...Rb8 23.R1d2 Qxa3 24.Nxa3 Kf8 25.e4 dxe4 26.Rxd7 Nxd7 27.Bxe4 Nc5 28.Rd4 Nxe4 29.Rxe4 Rxb2 30.Nxc4 Rb4 31.Nd6 Rxe4 32.Nxe4 Bxa2 {... 0-1}


A bit of theory

  There is one general problem with Pawn moves: the creation of holes, which your opponent's pieces can occupy. Tarrasch used to say, "Every Pawn move loosens the position". So the first and simplest form of weakness in a Pawn formation is the hole.

  There are four principal varieties of weak Pawn:

backward Pawn

doubled Pawns

isolated Pawn

hanging Pawns

  And there is one further idea which you should know about:

Pawn islands.

  Fine's comment on the title page is in his endgame book, which may give you a clue that the weakness of weak Pawns is most important in the endgame: this is true. It may also give you a clue that in the middlegame there may be some compensations for having weak Pawns: this is also true, and is the basis for Tarrasch's famous dismissal of the supposed weakness of the isolated Queen's Pawn:

"Before the endgame, the Gods have placed the middle-game."
The most miserable Pawn is the backward Pawn. There are very few compensations for having a backward Pawn. On the other hand, I have enjoyed demonstrating the positive side of hanging Pawns more than once; these are probably the least miserable of the lot. Almost any variety of weak Pawn is more miserable if it is blockaded or otherwise cannot move out of the way of an attack: this is the meaning of Fine's last warning about blockaded Pawns. I'll consider each type of Pawn weakness and discuss their advantages and if appropriate their compensations.

 


Backward Pawn.

-+-+-+-+
+x+-+xXx
x+-X-+-+
+-+-X-+-
-+-+p+-+
+p+-+-+-
p+p+-PpP
+-+-+-+-

Black has a backward Pawn at d6.

  White has a potentially backward Pawn at c3.

Disadvantages of Backward Pawns:

The Pawn on d6 is exposed to attack along the d-file but can neither be supported by a friendly Pawn nor easily be moved out of the way. The square in front of it (d5) is a potential outpost for a White Knight.

Possible compensations with Backward Pawns:

They may support neighbouring Pawns which are strong: above, Black has a strong central point at e5.

Doubled Pawns

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XxXx+xXx
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-+pP-+-+
+-P-+-P-
p+-+pPp+
+-+-+-+-

White has doubled Pawns at c3/c4 and g2/g3.

Disadvantages of Doubled Pawns:

The hindmost Pawn at c3 is effectively backward, but it is the Pawn on c4 which is most difficult to defend, as no Rook at c1 can support it.

Possible compensations with Doubled Pawns:

Doubling of Pawns should yield an open file: here the b-file might not offer much but the h-file might be worth something. Capturing towards the centre may give an extra ounce of influence over some central squares: here the d-Pawn is both supported by a Pawn at c3 while the d5 square is covered by the Pawn at c4.

Isolated Pawn

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Xx+-+x+x
-+-+x+-+
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-+-P-+-+
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pP-+-Pp+
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White has an isolated Pawn at d4.

  Black has an isolated Pawn on h7

Disadvantages of Isolated Pawns:

The isolated Pawn, like a backward Pawn, cannot be defended and often cannot advance easily. It is therefore weak, and the square in front of it is a potential outpost for opposing Knights.

Possible compensations with Isolated Pawns:

The Pawn may support other pieces e.g. Knight on e5, and in the example the Pawn on d4 gives extra space and mobility to White. This is not true of Black's Pawn on h7, which is only weak.

Hanging Pawns

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Xx+-+xXx
-+-+x+-+
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-+pP-+-+
+-+-+-+-
p+-+-PpP
+-+-+-+-

White has hanging Pawns at c4 and d4.

Disadvantages of Hanging Pawns:

The Pawns are not quite isolated but have the same sorts of problems, for, if one advances to be supported by the other, the hindmost

Possible compensations with Hanging Pawns:

Hanging Pawns on d4 and c4 confer a space advantage, which can be nurtured for attack. An advance of one or other Pawn may open lines for the attack, or result in a Passed Pawn.

Pawn islands

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Xx+xX-Xx
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-+-+-+-+
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pPp+pPp+
+-+-+-+-

White has two Pawn islands to Black's three.

Disadvantages of extra Pawn islands:

The Pawns on the edges of Pawn islands are not isolated, but they are slightly exposed. We might call them "semi-detached"; there is only one Pawn which can protect them, and only one Pawn which can protect the square in front of them. This looseness can be exploited to create more obvious weaknesses.

Possible compensations with extra Pawn islands:

Gaps between Pawn islands may be useful half-open files. I also alluded, in the Spielmann-Nimzovitch game above, to a split minority possibly being better at restraining an opponent's majority than an intact majority.

 


Winning against holes in the Pawn formation

Steinitz,W - Blackburne,J London, 1876
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. d3 d6 6. c3 Be7 7. h3 O-O 8. Qe2 Ne8 9. g4 b5 10. Bc2 Bb7 11. Nbd2 Qd7 12. Nf1 Nd8 13. Ne3 Ne6 14. Nf5 g6 15. Nxe7+ Qxe7

  Morphy and his contemporaries would probably have been very much surprised if anybody had told him that only ten moves later White pieces would be settled permanently on f6 and h6.

 

t+-+sTj+
+lX-Dx+x
x+-Xs+x+
+x+-X-+-
-+-+p+p+
+-Pp+n+p
pPb+qP-+
R-B-K-+r

16. Be3 N8g7 17. O-O-O c5 18. d4 exd4 19. cxd4 c4 20. d5 Nc7 21. Qd2 a5 22. Bd4 f6 23. Qh6 b4 24. g5 f5 25. Bf6

  Here we are...!

25... Qf7 26. exf5 gxf5 27. g6 Qxg6 28. Bxg7 Qxh6+ 29. Bxh6 Rf6 30. Rhg1+ Rg6 31. Bxf5 Kf7

[31... Rxg1 32. Rxg1+ Kh8 33. Bg7+ Kg8 34. Be5+ Kf7 35. Rg7+ Ke8 36. Rxc7]

32. Bxg6+ hxg6 33. Ng5+ Kg8 34. Rge1 1-0

 

t+-+-Tj+
+lS-D-Sx
-+-X-BxQ
X-+p+xP-
-Xx+p+-+
+-+-+n+p
pPb+-P-+
+-Kr+-+r


Winning against a Backward Pawn

Bogoljubow,Efim - Capablanca,Jose (New York ) (09) [D05] 1924
1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d5 3. e3 e6 4. Bd3 c5 5. b3 Nc6 6. O-O Bd6 7. Bb2 O-O 8. Nbd2 Qe7 9. Ne5 cxd4 10. exd4 Ba3 11. Bxa3 Qxa3 12. Ndf3 Bd7 13. Nxc6 Bxc6 14. Qd2 Rac8

 

-+t+-Tj+
Xx+-+xXx
-+l+xS-+
+-+x+-+-
-+-P-+-+
Dp+b+n+-
p+pQ-PpP
R-+-+rK-

There is some anxiety developing about White's c-Pawn. His next move is probably a mistake.

15. c3 a6 16. Ne5 Bb5 17. f3 Bxd3 18. Nxd3 Rc7 19. Rac1 Rfc8 20. Rc2 Ne8 21. Rfc1 Nd6 22. Ne5 Qa5 23. a4

 

-+t+-+j+
+xT-+xXx
x+-Sx+-+
D-+xN-+-
p+-P-+-+
+pP-+p+-
-+rQ-+pP
+-R-+-K-

With straightforward moves Black has put a lot of pressure on the c-Pawn. His next is a little tactical finesse, which creates a double attack on two neighbouring Pawns.

23... Qb6 24. Nd3 Qxb3 25. Nc5 Qb6 26. Rb2 Qa7 27. Qe1 b6 28. Nd3 Rc4 29. a5 bxa5 30. Nc5 Nb5 31. Re2

 

-+t+-+j+
D-+-+xXx
x+-+x+-+
XsNx+-+-
-+tP-+-+
+-P-+p+-
-+-+r+pP
+-R-Q-K-

White has been wobbling dreadfully, and finally topples.

31... Nxd4 32. cxd4 R8xc5 0-1

 


Winning with a Backward Pawn

Zinn - Sveshnikov, Decin [B33] 1974
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6

 

t+lDjL-T
Xx+-+xXx
-+sX-S-+
+n+-X-+-
-+-+p+-+
+-N-+-+-
pPp+-PpP
R-BqKb+r

One of the most puzzling of modern variations: didn't the games on Knight outposts suggest that Black is virtually lost? Well, he is if White proceeds smoothly, exchanges all the right pieces, and Black has no counterplay.

7. Bg5 a6 8. Na3 b5 9. Bxf6 gxf6 10. Nd5

 

t+lDjL-T
+-+-+x+x
x+sX-X-+
+x+nX-+-
-+-+p+-+
N-+-+-+-
pPp+-PpP
R-+qKb+r

All according to plan A, but there are some differences: Black has an interesting collection of K-side pawns which may allow ...f6-f5 and ...Rg8, and White's Knight on a3 is taking no part in the struggle.

10... f5 11. Bd3 Be6 12. Qh5 Bg7 13. O-O f4 14. c3 O-O 15. Nc2 f5

 

t+-D-Tj+
+-+-+-Lx
x+sXl+-+
+x+nXx+q
-+-+pX-+
+-Pb+-+-
pPn+-PpP
R-+-+rK-

Black is making maximum use of the f-pawns and White looks at least as loose as Black.

16. Ncb4 Nxb4 17. Nxb4 d5 18. exd5 Bd7 19. Bc2 Be8 20. Qe2 Kh8 21. Rad1 Qh4 22. f3 Rf6 23. Qe1 Qg5 24. Qxe5 Bd7 25. Qe7 Rg8

  Black follows his pawn sacrifice with a Bishop!

26. Qxd7 Rf7

 

-+-+-+tJ
+-+q+tLx
x+-+-+-+
+x+p+xD-
-N-+-X-+
+-P-+p+-
pPb+-+pP
+-+r+rK-

The f-pawns keep White's pieces from defending the King, and White has no answer to the vacating sacrifice ...Bd4.

0-1

 


Winning against Doubled Pawns

Mattison - Nimzovich (carlsbad) CHERNEV [E21] 1929
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3 Bxc3+ 5. bxc3 d6 6. Qc2 Qe7 7. Ba3 c5 8. g3 b6 9. Bg2 Bb7 10. O-O O-O 11. Nh4 Bxg2 12. Kxg2 Qb7+ 13. Kg1 Qa6 14. Qb3 Nc6 15. Rfd1 Na5

 

t+-+-Tj+
X-+-+xXx
dX-XxS-+
S-X-+-+-
-+pP-+-N
BqP-+-P-
p+-+pP-P
R-+r+-K-

White has a problem with the front c-Pawn, which can be patched up only at the cost of creating holes. Black's Knights leap about all over the White Pawns.

16. Qb5 Qxb5 17. cxb5 Nc4 18. Bc1 a6 19. bxa6 Rxa6 20. dxc5 bxc5 21. Ng2 Nd5 22. Rd3 Rfa8 23. e4 Ne5

 

t+-+-+j+
+-+-+xXx
t+-Xx+-+
+-XsS-+-
-+-+p+-+
+-Pr+-P-
p+-+-PnP
R-B-+-K-

"The centre cannot hold..."

0-1

 


Winning with Doubled Pawns

Bhend, E - Hort, V (Kecsemet) [B00] 1964
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nf6 5. Nxf6+ gxf6

 

tSlDjL-T
Xx+-Xx+x
-+x+-X-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-P-+-+
+-+-+-+-
pPp+-PpP
R-BqKbNr

All a bit early to call - we observe the Pawn differences, but not much else. Black has a doubled Pawn, and and extra open file.

6. c3 Bf5 7. Nf3 e6 8. Bf4 Bd6 9. Bg3 Qc7 10. Qb3 Nd7 11. Be2 O-O-O 12. Nd2 Nb6 13. a4 a5 14. O-O Rhg8

 

-+jT-+t+
+xD-+x+x
-SxLxX-+
X-+-+l+-
p+-P-+-+
+qP-+-B-
-P-NbPpP
R-+-+rK-

Black's Rooks have done their duty in occupying the files: Black now executes a simple King's-side attack.

15. Rfe1 Bxg3 16. hxg3 h5 17. Bf3 Bg4 18. Be2 h4 19. gxh4

 

-+jT-+t+
+xD-+x+-
-Sx+xX-+
X-+-+-+-
p+-P-+lP
+qP-+-+-
-P-NbPp+
R-+-R-K-

Some brisk tactics finish the job.

19... Bh3 20. Bf1 Rxg2+ 21. Bxg2 Rg8 22. Kf1 Rxg2 23. Nf3 Qf4 24. Re3 Nd5 25. c4 Nxe3+ 26. Qxe3 Rg1+ 0-1

 


Winning against an Isolated Pawn

Lasker-Reshevsky, Nottingham 1936
Here's another isolated/hanging pawn game, showing the weakness of the pawn being turned to attack.

1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 e6 5. Bxc4 c5 6. Nc3 a6 7. O-O b5 8. Bd3 cxd4 9. exd4 Bb7 10. Bg5 Be7 11. Qe2 O-O 12. Rad1 Nbd7 13. Ne5 Nd5

 

t+-D-Tj+
+l+sLxXx
x+-+x+-+
+x+sN-B-
-+-P-+-+
+-Nb+-+-
pP-+qPpP
+-+r+rK-

Always this blockade: here it also offers desirable exchanges.

14. Bc1 Nxc3 15. bxc3 Nf6 16. a4 Qd5 17. Nf3 Rfc8 18. Bb2 Ne4 19. Rc1 Ng5

 

t+t+-+j+
+l+-LxXx
x+-+x+-+
+x+d+-S-
p+-P-+-+
+-Pb+n+-
-B-+qPpP
+-R-+rK-

Black has developed strong pressure along the long diagonal.

20. axb5 axb5 21. Bxb5 Nxf3+ 22. gxf3 Qg5+ 0-1

  One might ask:

  why does the side attacking the IQP blockade the square in front of it?

  and why should the side with the IQP avoid exchanges?

  Simple answers: you blockade the IQP because it may advance to d5 and blow up your position, and you avoid exchanges if you have an IQP because the endings are bad for you and you might make use of the extra space to create an attack.


Winning with an Isolated Pawn

Stoltz - Thomas, Zaandamk [D40]1946
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Nf3 c5 5. e3 Nc6 6. a3 cxd4 7. exd4 dxc4 8. Bxc4 Be7 9. O-O O-O 10. Re1 a6 11. Ba2 b5

 

t+lD-Tj+
+-+-LxXx
x+s+xS-+
+x+-+-+-
-+-P-+-+
P-N-+n+-
bP-+-PpP
R-BqR-K-

White's advantage seems trifling - a good Rook on e1, and the move - but is rapidly converted through the characteristic d4-d5 break. White can see no tactical opportunity in particular, but a general optimism based on open lines 12. d5 exd5 13. Nxd5 Nxd5 14. Qxd5 Qd6

[14... Bb7 15. Bg5 with a strong initiative based on his more active pieces 15... Bxg5

[or 15... Na5 16. Qf5 Bxg5 17. Nxg5 g6 18. Nxf7]

16. Nxg5 Qxd5 17. Bxd5 h6 18. Ne4]

15. Rxe7 Qxe7 16. Qxc6 Bg4 17. Be3 Rac8 18. Qd5 Rfd8 19. Qg5 Qxg5 20. Nxg5

 

-+tT-+j+
+-+-+xXx
x+-+-+-+
+x+-+-N-
-+-+-+l+
P-+-B-+-
bP-+-PpP
R-+-+-K-

White has secured two pieces for a rook, and his initiative endures.

20... Rd7 21. f3 Bf5 22. g4 Bd3 23. Rd1 Rcd8 24. Bb6 Bc4 25. Rxd7 Rxd7 26. Bxc4 bxc4 27. Ne4 f5 28. gxf5 Kf7 29. Ba5 Rd5 30. Bc3 h5 31. Kf2 Kg8 32. f6 1-0

 


Winning against Hanging Pawns

Fischer - Spassky WCh (6) [D59] 1972
1. c4 e6 2. Nf3 d5 3. d4 Nf6 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bg5 O-O 6. e3 h6 7. Bh4 b6 8. cxd5 Nxd5 9. Bxe7 Qxe7 10. Nxd5 exd5 11. Rc1 Be6 12. Qa4 c5 13. Qa3 Rc8 14. Bb5 a6 15. dxc5 bxc5 16. O-O Ra7 17. Be2 Nd7

 

-+t+-+j+
T-+sDxX-
x+-+l+-X
+-Xx+-+-
-+-+-+-+
Q-+-Pn+-
pP-+bPpP
+-R-+rK-

Black seems to have supported his Pawns nicely, but Fischer's next three moves exploit the remaining looseness to create a new formation in which White has the better minor piece, prospects of attack, and an enduring initiative.

18. Nd4! Qf8 19. Nxe6 fxe6 20. e4! d4 21. f4 Qe7 22. e5 Rb8 23. Bc4 Kh8 24. Qh3 Nf8 25. b3 a5 26. f5 exf5 27. Rxf5 Nh7 28. Rcf1 Qd8 29. Qg3 Re7 30. h4 Rbb7 31. e6 Rbc7 32. Qe5 Qe8 33. a4 Qd8 34. R1f2 Qe8 35. R2f3 Qd8 36. Bd3 Qe8 37. Qe4 Nf6 38. Rxf6 gxf6 39. Rxf6 Kg8 40. Bc4 Kh8 41. Qf4 1-0

 


Winning with Hanging Pawns

Bertok - Fischer [D59] 1962
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Be7 4. Nf3 Nf6 5. Bg5 O-O 6. e3 h6 7. Bh4 b6 8. cxd5 Nxd5 9. Bxe7 Qxe7 10. Nxd5 exd5 11. Be2 Be6 12. O-O c5 13. dxc5?! 13... bxc5 14. Qa4 Qb7!

 

tS-+-Tj+
Xd+-+xX-
-+-+l+-X
+-Xx+-+-
q+-+-+-+
+-+-Pn+-
pP-+bPpP
R-+-+rK-

White is not well-placed to harass the pawns, while Fischer is making use of his own trumps - like the half-open b-file.

15. Qa3 Nd7 16. Ne1 a5 17. Nd3 c4

  This is a very committal move. The b-Pawn is pinned down, the d-Pawn becomes backward, and the fourth rank becomes blocked.

18. Nf4 Rfb8 19. Rab1 ? (Nxe6) 19... Bf5 20. Rbd1 Nf6 21. Rd2 g5

 

tT-+-+j+
+d+-+x+-
-+-+-S-X
X-+x+lX-
-+x+-N-+
Q-+-P-+-
pP-RbPpP
+-+-+rK-

White is terribly short of ideas. It's "make your mind up" time!

22. Nxd5

[22. Nh5 Ne4 23. Rc2 Qb4]

22... Nxd5 23. Bxc4 Be6 24. Rfd1? 24... Nxe3 (oops) 25. Qxe3 Bxc4 26. h4 Re8 27. Qg3 Qe7 28. b3 Be6 29. f4 g4 30. h5 Qc5+ 31. Rf2 Bf5 0-1

 


Winning against extra Pawn islands

Capablanca,Jose - Kupchik,Abraham (Havana ) (07) [C49] 1913
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bb5 Bb4 5. O-O O-O 6. Bxc6 bxc6 7. Nxe5 Qe8

 

t+l+dTj+
X-Xx+xXx
-+x+-S-+
+-+-N-+-
-L-+p+-+
+-N-+-+-
pPpP-PpP
R-Bq+rK-

8. Nd3 Bxc3 9. dxc3 Qxe4

[9... Nxe4 10. Re1]

10. Re1 Qh4 11. Qf3 Ba6 12. Bf4 Rac8 13. Be5 (idea /\ Nc5)13... Bxd3 14. cxd3 Qg4 15. Bxf6 Qxf3 16. gxf3 gxf6

 

-+t+-Tj+
X-Xx+x+x
-+x+-X-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-Pp+p+-
pP-+-P-P
R-+-R-K-

Assessment, +/-: better Pawns, fewer Pawn islands, more active pieces. The weakest spot in the Black position is the isolated a-Pawn, and it is here that an attack should be directed.

17. Re4

  First, Capablanca mobilises and centralises his pieces. There is never any sense of rush when Capa plays an ending. This ease of mobilisation is a dynamic advantage to add to the static ones just listed.

17... Rfe8 18. Rae1 Re6 19. R1e3 Rce8 20. Kf1 Kf8 21. Ke2 Ke7

 

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X-XxJx+x
-+x+tX-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+r+-+
+-PpRp+-
pP-+kP-P
+-+-+-+-

Now, White can attack the a-pawn.

22. Ra4 Ra8 23. Ra5

  restrains the Pawns

23... d5!?

  I can sympathise with the bid for space but this is not forced and has the disadvantage of leaving the c-Pawns without support - backward, although not exposed on a file. White quickly blockades the Pawns.

24. c4! Kd6

[24... dxc4 leaves all Black's Pawns isolated and most of them doubled!]

[24... d4 25. Re4 Kd6 26. b4 Re5 27. Ra6 'hopeless', said Capa]

25. c5+ Kd7 26. d4

  Black's pawns have become fixed, cutting off the Queen's-side.

26... f5

  Hoping to nip out to h6 with some play.

27. Rxe6! fxe6 28. f4

  Clearing the third rank for a Rook

28... Kc8 29. Kd2 Kb7?!

 

t+-+-+-+
XjX-+-+x
-+x+x+-+
R-Px+x+-
-+-P-P-+
+-+-+-+-
pP-K-P-P
+-+-+-+-

Black has achieved a solid defence of the a-Pawn and Whiite can achieve little else there. But White has access to both sides of the board via the third rank. [29... Rb8!? 30. Kc3

[30. b3 blocks the third rank]

[30. Kc2 Rb4 31. Kc3 Rc4+ 32. Kd3 Rb4]

30... Rb7 may have been better]

30. Ra3 Rg8 31. Rh3 Rg7

  This defence from the side keeps the Black Rook more active than moving it to defend from h8, but I'm sure Black also considered ...Rg1!?, giving up a Pawn to get the Rook active. It looks a bit speculative here but is the right sort of idea to have in mind.

32. Ke2 Ka6 33. Rh6 Re7 34. Kd3 Kb7 35. h4 Kc8 36. Rh5 Kd7 37. Rg5 Rf7

 

-+-+-+-+
X-Xj+t+x
-+x+x+-+
+-Px+xR-
-+-P-P-P
+-+k+-+-
pP-+-P-+
+-+-+-+-

Again, Black has achieved a solid, if passive, defence. White now returns his attention to the Queen's-side.

38. Kc3 Kc8 39. Kb4 Rf6 40. Ka5 Kb7 41. a4 a6 42. h5 Rh6

 

-+-+-+-+
+jX-+-+x
x+x+x+-T
K-Px+xRp
p+-P-P-+
+-+-+-+-
-P-+-P-+
+-+-+-+-

White is poised on both fronts but can improve the position of his pieces no further. It is time to try and force the issue.

43. b4 Rf6 44. b5!?

[44. Rg7! Rh6 first would have been better, according to Capa: 45. b5 axb5 46. axb5 cxb5

[46... Rxh5 47. b6]

47. Kxb5 e.g. 47... Rxh5 48. c6+ Kb8 49. Ka6]

44... axb5 45. axb5 Rf8

  Off to sieze the a-file!

[45... Rf7 46. h6 Re7 47. Rg7 is hopeless: so Black must counterattack.]

46. Rg7 Ra8+ 47. Kb4 cxb5 48. Kxb5 Ra2

 

-+-+-+-+
+jX-+-Rx
-+-+x+-+
+kPx+x+p
-+-P-P-+
+-+-+-+-
t+-+-P-+
+-+-+-+-

Black has gained some activity. Of course, White does not retreat and defend with Rg2.

49. c6+ Kb8 50. Rxh7

  White has an h-pawn. Can the lone Black Rook do enough to compensate?

50... Rb2+ 51. Ka5 Ra2+ 52. Kb4 Rxf2 53. Re7 Rxf4?!

  Natural, but not exact.

[53... Rb2+! 54. Kc3 Rh2 55. Rxe6 Ka7 56. h6 Kb6 which isn't great but Black is also fighting with the King now]

[53... Rh2? 54. Rxe6 Rxh5 55. Re5 Ka7 56. Kc5]

54. h6 Rxd4+ 55. Kb5 Rd1 56. h7

  A Pawn on the seventh seems worth three in the bush! Black can only hope to harass the King with checks, but these are soon exhausted.

56... Rb1+ 57. Kc5 Rc1+ 58. Kd4 Rd1+ 59. Ke5 Re1+ 60. Kf6 Rh1 61. Re8+ Ka7 62. h8=Q Rxh8 63. Rxh8 Kb6 64. Kxe6 Kxc6 65. Kxf5 Kc5 66. Ke5 c6 67. Rh6 Kb5 68. Kd4 1-0

 


Winning with extra Pawn islands

This ought to work rather like the extra files in doubled Pawn positions, but damned if I could find any convincing complete games. I did dig a couple of examples out of my opening files, though:

Geller's Quiet System - Bronstein [B06] 1993

1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. c3 d6 4. Nf3 Nf6

 

tSlDj+-T
XxX-XxLx
-+-X-Sx+
+-+-+-+-
-+-Pp+-+
+-P-+n+-
pP-+-PpP
RnBqKb+r

5. Nbd2

[5. Bd3 (best)]

5... O-O 6. Be2

[6. h3 b6 7. Bc4 e6 8. O-O Bb7 9. Qe2 c5 10. dxc5 bxc5 11. e5 dxe5 12. Nxe5 Nd5 13. Ndf3 Nd7 14. Bg5 Qc7 15. Nxd7 Qxd7 16. Rad1 Qc7 17. Rfe1 Nb6 18. Bd3 c4 19. Bc2 Nd5

 

t+-+-Tj+
XlD-+xLx
-+-+x+x+
+-+s+-B-
-+x+-+-+
+-P-+n+p
pPb+qPp+
+-+rR-K-

Simagin-Bronstein, Moscow 1967

[0-1,44]]

6... b6 7. O-O e6

  (To stop e4-e5-e6 and discourage d5 in reply to the coming ...c5. Benko has in fact played 7...Bb7 without immediate harm, but this is safer)

8. Re1 Bb7 9. Bd3 c5 10. dxc5 bxc5 11. e5 dxe5 12. Nxe5 Nc6 13. Ndc4 Nxe5 14. Nxe5 Qc7

 

t+-+-Tj+
XlD-+xLx
-+-+xSx+
+-X-N-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-Pb+-+-
pP-+-PpP
R-BqR-K-

=+ K/B

  (Better bishops, possibilities of play on b-file, and some central influence from Pe6; moreover, the Queen's-side majority cannot really get going, as there is no real 'candidate' for promotion)

15. Qe2 Rab8 16. Bd2 Ba8 17. Nc4 Nh5 18. Be4 Bd5 19. b3 Rfd8 20. Rad1 Nf6 21. Bc2 Qb7 22. Na5 Qb6 23. Nc4 Qa6 24. Ne3 Qxe2 25. Rxe2 Bc6 26. f3 a5

 

-T-T-+j+
+-+-+xLx
-+l+xSx+
X-X-+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+pP-Np+-
p+bBr+pP
+-+r+-K-

Filip-Bronstein, Moscow 1967

[0-1,85]

=/+

Chess Quotes

"When it is so freely asserted that Morphy's style was all genius and inspiration ... Morphy possessed that most profound book knowledge of any master of his time, and never introduced a single novelty, whereas since his day the books have had to study the players...

 We may all learn from Morphy and Anderssen how to conduct a King's side attack, and perhaps I myself may not have learnt enough.

— Wilhelm STEINITZ